Your Guide to Central Toronto


Toronto is Canada's largest city with a population of 4.4 million. in the 1960's, the economy exploded, and the city's appearance was transformed by the construction of a series of mighty, modernistic skyscrapers. The city's population is truly cosmopolitan, and Toronto has become one of the world's favourite capitals, sporting a flamboyance, self-confidence and vibrancy like never before.

Living in Toronto is a wonderful and diverse opportunity and getting settled can sometimes be time consuming.  To help you with this burden I have included my Moving Guide, please use this helpful Guide to sort out some of your moving chores online.

Throughout the City of Toronto, there are enclaves of distinct neighbourhoods. Some are whole districts. Some consist of just a few streets but hold a unique cultural flavour all their own. Here are a few examples of Toronto's neighbourhoods:

Chaplin Estates Deer Park Forest Hill Rosedale Yorkville The Annex Davisville Allenby South Hill
Lawrence Park Lytton Park Moore Park North Toronto Summerhill Leaside Bennington Heights

CHAPLIN ESTATES

The Chaplin Estates neighbourhood began with a plan of subdivision, registered by William John Chaplin and his son James D. Chaplin, in 1913. The Chaplin family had been landowners in this area dating back to 1860, when this district was known simply as 'Eglinton'. 

Chaplin Estates was marketed as a high class residential district. The developers included a long list of building restrictions and zoning bylaws, in the sale of each property. There were no semi-detached houses allowed, and stucco exteriors were not to cover more than half the house.

The marketing of the subdivision was handled by the Chaplin Realty Company. Prices ranged from $500 to $9,000 a lot. Most of the lots were sold between 1921 and 1925.

Chaplin

DEER PARK

Deer Park used to be referred to by the First Nations people as "Mushquoteh", which means a meadow or opening in the wood where deer come to feed. In 1837, the Heath family purchased forty acres of land in "Mushquoteh". Appropriately, they named their estate Deer Park. By the 1850's, the Deer Park area had grown to include a handful of country villas, a general store, a school, a cemetery, a race track, and a hotel that was located at the intersection of Yonge and St. Clair. Patrons at the Deer Park Hotel used to delight in feeding the deer that roamed on the hotel grounds.

The deer were long gone by the time Deer Park was annexed to the City of Toronto in 1908. Deer Park filled in very quickly after annexation. By the 1930's the Deer Park neighbourhood was established as one of Toronto's finest residential districts.
Deer

FOREST HILL

Forest Hill was incorporated as a village in 1923. It was named after the summer residence of John Wickson, built in 1860, at the junction of Eglinton Avenue and Old Forest Hill Road. The hill is still there, but the forest is long since gone, having been replaced by apartment buildings.

Prior to its incorporation, Forest Hill had been known as "Spadina Heights". Spadina is a derivative of the First Nations word "Ishapadenah", which means a hill or sudden rise in land. The boundaries of the present day neighbourhood are shaped from the old Spadina Heights school district. "Lower Forest Hill", south of Eglinton, was completely developed by the 1930's. "Upper Forest Hill" was slower to develop due to the fact it had previously been occupied by the old Belt Line railway, and then by industry. In 1967, Forest Hill Village joined Swansea Village as one of the last two independent villages to be annexed by the City of Toronto.
Forest Hill

ROSEDALE

Rosedale began when Sherrif William Botsford Jarvis, and his wife Mary settled on a homestead here in the 1820's. It was Mary Jarvis who came up with the Rosedale name, as a tribute to the profusion of wild roses that graced the hillsides of the Jarvis estate. Mary's frequent walks and horseback rides through Rosedale, blazed a trail for the meandering and winding streets that are today a Rosedale trademark. The Jarvis family sold the Rosedale homestead in 1864 which led to the subdivision and development of South Rosedale.

North Rosedale's development began in 1909 when a bridge was built over the Park Drive ravine. Prior to its residential development North Rosedale had been the original home of St. Andrews College and the Rosedale Golf Club. It was also the site of the former lacrosse grounds, where the Canadian Football League's first Grey Cup game was played.
Rosedale

YORKVILLE

Yorkville was subdivided in the 1830's, by a prominent brewer named Joseph Bloor, and by Sheriff William Botsford Jarvis who also founded the Rosedale neighbourhood. Yorkville was named after the Town of York, the forerunner to the City of Toronto. Yorkville was incorporated as a Village in 1853. The initials and trades of Yorkville's first council members are displayed on the Village coat of arms which is now on the tower of the historic Yorkville Fire Hall, located at 34 Yorkville Avenue.

In 1883, Yorkville had the distinction of being the first village annexed by the City of Toronto. Despite being part of a big city, Yorkville has always maintained its own identity. It had gained notoriety first as a hippie haven in the 1960's, and then became known as a shopping mecca in the 1980's and 1990's.
Yorkville

THE ANNEX

The Annex was subdivided in the 1870's and 1880's. It immediately became one of Toronto's elite neighbourhoods. The Annex's first residents included the likes of Timothy Eaton, the patriarch of Eatons department store, and George Gooderham, president of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery.

The Annex's Golden Era lasted until the 1920's, when the upper classes began to migrate northward to newer more fashionable suburbs in Forest Hill and Lawrence Park. Those who stayed behind helped form the Annex Residents Association. This powerful lobby group saved the Annex from the proposed Spadina Expressway which would have divided the Annex in half, had it been built. The Annex has endured and is now over one hundred years old. It remains one of Toronto's premier neighbourhoods.

Annex

DAVISVILLE

Davisville Village is named after John Davis, who immigrated to Canada from Staffordshire, England in 1840. John Davis served as Davisville's first postmaster and helped found the Davisville Public School. He also operated the Davis Pottery, which became the Village's largest employer. 

The south part of Davisville was subdivided in the 1860's on land owned mostly by the Davis family. The north part of the Village belonged to the Church. This latter tract of land, known as the Davisville Glebe, remained undeveloped until 1911 when it was sold to the Dovercourt Land and Building Company, the same company that oversaw the development of the Lawrence Park neighbourhood.

 

Davisville

ALLENBY

Allenby was first settled in the 1400's by the Huron Tribe which had a village here until sometime in the early 1700's. This village is described in Lyman B. Jackes Tales of North Toronto as "a well organized and extensive community that had its centre in an artesian spring of pure water. The spring flowed where the modern water tower rears its head on Roselawn Avenue, just to the west of Avenue Road. The great tribal huts were on the site of the present day Allenby Public School."

Jackes goes on to say that the Allenby school hill is not natural but was man-made, the result of the Huron's practice of burrowing food stocks underground.

The present day neighbourhood was developed when Allenby Public School opened in 1927. The school was named after Lord Allenby, a British World War One hero.

Ed. Note - The water tower Jackes refers to on Roselawn Avenue, is now a police communications tower.

Allenby

SOUTH HILL

The South Hill neighbourhood is defined by the Avenue Road Hill. This historic land formation was the former shoreline of ancient Lake Iroquois whose chilly waters receded into present day Lake Ontario some 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. 

The escarpment that Lake Iroquois left behind was covered by a dense forest interrupted only by the ponds, creeks, and waterfalls that graced the Avenue Road Hill up until the 1900's.

South Hill's natural beauty made it an instant favourite with wealthy Toronto landowners. In the mid to late 1800's, South Hill was dotted with mansions that were unsurpassed in variety and scope anywhere else in Toronto. "Oaklands", the gingerbread mansion overlooking Avenue Road, "Spadina House" at 285 Spadina Road and "Casa Loma", the 98 room home of Sir Henry William Pellatt, still endure from this bygone era.

SouthHill

LAWRENCE PARK

The Lawrence Park subdivision was assembled in 1907 by the Dovercourt Land Building and Saving Company. The Dovercourt Land Company acquired the north parcel of Lawrence Park from John Lawrence, after whom this neighbourhood is named. Wilfred Servington Dinnick was the president of the Dovercourt Land Company. It was under Dinnick's direction that Lawrence Park was developed as a suburb for the 'well to do'.

The first advertisement for Lawrence Park trumpeted it as an 'aristocratic neighbourhood', 'four hundred feet above Lake Ontario', and 'Far from the Lake Winds in Winter'. Despite all its fanfare, Lawrence Park's development was sporadic. The building of houses was interrupted by two world wars, a recession, and a depression. It wasn't until the 1950's that this neighbourhood was completely developed.
Lawrence Park

LYTTON PARK

Lytton Park owes its development to the Metropolitan Street Railway, whose single horse car line began service to this area in 1886. Prior to the advent of the railway, Lytton Park was a rural outpost with limited access to the City of Toronto. The Metropolitan Company recognized the impact on land values that their railway service would bring to this district. Thus in 1888, the Railway purchased the two hundred acre Beatty farm, near their station at Yonge and Glengrove.

In 1888, the former Beatty farm became the "Glen Grove Park' subdivision and the residential development of Lytton Park was underway. Lytton Park's major period of growth began in 1912, when it became part of the City of Toronto. It was during the next fifteen years that most of Lytton Park's houses, schools, churches and parks were built.
Lytton

MOORE PARK

Moore Park was subdivided in 1889 as an exclusive Toronto suburb for the very wealthy. Its namesake and creator was a gentleman by the name of John Thomas Moore. Moore was instrumental in building the Belt Line Railway, Toronto's first commuter train. He personally oversaw the construction of the Belt Line's showpiece station at Moore Park.

Moore leveraged all his money on the Belt Line, predicting it would bring many buyers to his Moore Park subdivision. However, shortly after the Belt Line opened Toronto suffered through a horrible Depression and the Belt Line went bankrupt. This setback postponed the building of homes in Moore Park until the early 1900's. By the 1930's, Moore Park was completely developed.
Moore Park

NORTH TORONTO

The town of North Toronto was incorporated in 1890. It was formed as the result of an amalgamation between Davisville Village, Eglinton Village, and Bedford Park Village. At the time of its incorporation, North Toronto was primarily an agricultural farming community. However, large parcels of land in North Toronto were already subdivided, and were being held by speculators.

The actual building of houses in this area began in the 1890's, when the Metropolitan Street Railway, made North Toronto the northernmost stop on its five cent line from downtown Toronto. By the early 1900's, North Toronto had emerged as one of Toronto's most popular commuter suburbs. However, frustrated by the poor level of municipal services being offered by the Town, North Toronto residents voted in favour of Annexation to the City of Toronto on December 15, 1912. North Toronto filled in quickly after annexation and was completely developed by the 1940's.
North Toronto

SUMMERHILL

The Summerhill neighbourhood is named after 'Summer Hill' house, a magnificent Regency cottage built in 1842, by transportation baron Charles Thompson. Summer Hill stood on the crest of the hill where the houses on Summerhill Gardens are located today. Thompson's two hundred acre Summer Hill estate stretched from the present day Yonge Street to Mt. Pleasant Road. On this site Thompson established the 'Summer Hill Spring Park and Pleasure Grounds'. This amusement park featured rides, games, swimming and a popular dance pavilion that was located inside the Summer Hill house. Thompson's heirs subdivided Summer Hill in the 1860's.

From the 1880's onward Summerhill's development revolved around the railway. The first residents of this neighbourhood worked at the North Toronto Railway station which was established on Yonge Street near Summerhill in the 1880's. This station - rebuilt in 1916 - is distinguished by its grand clock tower and now serves as the neighbourhood liquor store. In the 1920's the Canadian Pacific Railway made Summerhill their main Toronto station. When Summerhill station closed this neighbourhood went into a period of decline that lasted until the Summerhill subway station opened in 1965. Summerhill has enjoyed a position of prominence among Toronto neighbourhoods ever since.

Ed. Note: The former Summer Hill Coach House, circa 1865, is still standing today, at the rear of 36 Summerhill Gardens. This house with its distinctive slate roof can be seen from the south end of the Rosehill Reservoir.
Summerhill

LEASIDE

Leaside was first settled by John Lea a pioneer farmer who emigrated to Canada from Philadelphia in 1819. In the 1850's, Lea's oldest son William built an eight-sided octagonal shaped house - appropriately named 'Leaside' - near the present day site of Leaside Memorial Gardens. This neighbourhood has been called Leaside ever since. 

The Canadian Northern Railway incorporated the Town of Leaside in 1913 on land formerly owned by the Lea family. Leaside's development was historically significant in that it was the first town in Ontario to be completely planned on paper before any homes were actually built.

Leaside's residential development was stalled due to the outbreak of World War I, however Leaside was an important contributor to the war effort. Heavy artillery was manufactured at the Leaside Munitions Company. Leaside was also the location of an airfield used for the training of Canadian pilots.

In 1918 the Leaside Airfield made Canadian aviation history as the terminus of the first airmail flight in Canada, travelling from Montreal to Toronto. Leaside's status as a Town came to an end in 1967 when it became part of the Borough of East York, which has since amalgamated with the City of Toronto.

Leaside

BENNINGTON HEIGHTS

The Bennington Heights neighbourhood is situated on a flat plain of land, on the crest of an escarpment which thousands of years ago had been part of the shoreline of ancient Lake Iroquois - the forerunner to Lake Ontario. 

This area was first settled in the 1870's by John Cudmore and Daniel Ryan, who operated successful market gardens on their respective properties. The Cudmore farm was subdivided for residential development in 1889 and later re-subdivided in 1912. Daniel Ryan's property, which was located just to the north of the Cudmore farm was subdivided in stages between 1891 and 1946.

The first resident of the present day neighbourhood was Thomas Weatherhead, a solicitor for the East York School Board. In 1925, when Weatherhead purchased number thirty Rosemount Avenue he had the Rosemount street name changed to Bennington, which was his wife's maiden name.

The Bennington name was also adopted by the Bennington Heights School when it opened in 1950. This neighbourhood has been referred to as Bennington Heights ever since.

Bennington

Neighbourhood information courtesy of David Dunkelman, Author  of Your Guide to Toronto Neighbourhoods and Your Guide to Toronto Suburbs